While traveling to Las Vegas for a conference I sat near a pair of fathers and their sons in the airport terminal. The fathers were coaching their (adult) sons on the nuances of winning at blackjack – their winning formula. For some reason, this got me to thinking about what legacy we pass on – not just to our children, but those we work with and for.
Those who have chosen 9-1-1 as a career have a unique legacy. They have chosen to work in a job of self-sacrifice. Frankly, the financial rewards aren’t commensurate with the sacrifice of family and emotional toll the job takes. I am also always taken back by how active our “industry” is in fund raising for fellow telecommunicators or responders that are having issues or just the willingness to volunteer time to help in charitable causes or even to further the industry itself. The NG911 standards development process itself is a testament to volunteerism.
Additionally, telecommunicators are in the unique role of rarely seeing the results of their daily efforts and sacrifice. Unlike the EMT who revives a patient, or the law enforcement officer who prevents an altercation from escalating, those manning the phones rarely see the outcome of their efforts (whether positive or negative). It is for this reason, stress management is such a critical issue for telecommunicators. There is rarely closure on an incident.
Unfortunately, those serving in 9-1-1 rarely see the impact they have on those they are helping. As we approach National Telecommunicator week (April 10-16, 2016) and reflect on the profession, I’m glad to see the number of awards honoring those who go beyond the call of duty (shameless plug for our own Smart Telecommunicator Awards), but I can’t help but think of all the lives impacted that our industry doesn’t know about or never hears from. Our engineering and services team loves to hear about how our products helped in a response. It is encouraging and motivating and I’m always getting pumped for more details. I work with a non-profit that helps expectant mothers. It is always a joy for the volunteers when those mothers come in and show off their new babies. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a better way for our telecommunicators to get some of that kind of feedback on the results of their efforts? Even if just a short optional survey at the end of a shift for the responders?
Even if we often don’t have the feedback that would be so encouraging, I’d like those of you who man the radios and phones to think about the legacy you passed on this week that you may never know about. The father that will come home to his family because of the rapid dispatch of EMS, the young woman that was safely removed from a violent situation because you recognized something wasn’t right in her voice, or maybe it was just a confused elderly caller that you coached to call a loved one who was able to help them. I’m sure the legacy you left on those families will be more impactful than a winning tip for blackjack.